Why the Chain of Custody Is So Important in DNA Paternity Tests

DNA paternity testing is serious business, and it needs to be – the legal question of whether a particular person is responsible for the care and support of a child and his or her mother is one that needs to be answered with certainty. This means that the legitimacy of the results of a paternity test needs to be insured at all times; the method that is used to determine if a test’s results are accurate is to determine if the chain of custody of the test materials and the results remained intact throughout the entire process, from the collection of the samples to the delivery of the results to the courts.

The AABB, once known as the American Association of Blood Banks, is the official industry body that handles accreditation and certification for lab facilities in the United States, and the institution has stringent requirements that must be met before it will sign off on the legitimacy of any lab that conducts DNA paternity tests. One of these requirements is that these labs follow strict chain of custody procedures to ensure that the results of these paternity tests are able to be used in legal challenges to a father’s claim of paternity for a child – or to refute the claim of a mother that the child in question is indeed the progeny of a particular man.

It’s not the science that’s questioned by the courts, as the methods employed in DNA paternity testing carry enough certainty that whether or not a test subject is the father of a child is well beyond a reasonable doubt, much less a preponderance of the evidence. Instead, it’s the fallible nature of people that the chain of command ensures against. As the DNA test and its results are considered legal evidence, this means that the whereabouts of the test materials must be known at any given time. It begins with a neutral third party collecting the samples, who then must ensure that no one who isn’t authorized to interact with these samples does so; it’s only through this method that the possibility of samples being tampered with or swapped outright can be eliminated in order to remove any and all doubt from the veracity of the processing lab’s findings.

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